Serious concerns have been raised over the future of the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital, Livingston.
The ward is once again to be downgraded despite assurances from the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian in the summer of 2012 that urgent steps would be taken to protect the service.
West Lothian has the fastest growing youth population in Scotland and any move to permanently downgrade the service at the hospital would be seen as completely unacceptable according to service users.
However, there is serious concern that this is the first step in a longer term plan involving the centralisation of services at the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children, which will result in the downgrading of the paediatric service in West Lothian permanently.
Leader of the council John McGinty said: “It is unacceptable West Lothian families are being forced to accept a cut in services at St John’s.
“Once again NHS Lothian is planning to stop admitting inpatients to the children’s ward for the summer period because of a lack of staff.
“We understand that NHS Lothian will start a consultation in August on the provision of paediatric services across the Lothians.
‘‘But, remarkably, we have been advised the consultation is likely to take up to a year to complete and will not report on its findings until after the Scottish Government elections in 2016.
“West Lothian Council will be fighting tooth and nail to make sure there is no reduction in the service, indeed we want it enhanced.
“As recently as last week the council administration agreed a motion to press NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government to deliver a commitment to ensure the future of the service at St John’s.”
Councillor McGinty added: “The council has made its position clear over recent years where families in West Lothian have had to deal with the consequences of the children’s ward closing during the school summer holiday.
‘‘It is deeply concerning that this is an issue which does not seem to go away and there is clearly a continued threat to the paediatric service at St John’s.
“Given the gravity of the situation I wrote to the cabinet secretary last Thursday urging her to intervene and provide immediate support to NHS Lothian to ensure that there is no reduction in the paediatric service at St John’s Hospital over the summer.
“No reply has been received yet.’’
Anne McMillan, West Lothian Council’s executive councillor for health and care, added: “It’s no good calling for a 24/7 service at St John’s if that means that the service provided is reduced and downgraded.
“Last week the council supported my motion making it clear our view is there should be no service reduction to the paediatric service at St John’s.
“West Lothian Council values the commitment and hard work of the paediatric staff at our local hospital and we call upon the Scottish Government to intervene and prevent NHS Lothian downgrading services. “